My brother was diagnosed with Aspeger’s syndrome a few years ago. Since then, I’ve been intrigued with the subject and have followed news regarding the development and research surrounding the autism spectrum. That being said, when I heard about Autism: The Musical, I knew it had to be added to my ‘must-see’ movie list.
Somethings y’all should know before we go any further:
- First, I heart documentaries. There’s something about experiencing someone else’s life that fascinates me. Heaven help you if you catch me when a True Life marathon is on. This obviously skews my opinion, so take the review as you wish.
- Second, this movie may make you uncomfortable if you are not familiar with the many ways autism presents itself. In some instances, the children seem almost normal. In others, their symptoms are extremely visible and pronounced.
Okay, now that that’s out of the way – the documentary follows the quest of Elaine Hall, the mother of an autistic child, to create a theatre production with a cast made entirely of autistic children. Viewers are introduced to these children and their families – learning their stories and sometimes experiencing the complications that come with raising an autistic child. Since Jeff wasn’t fully diagnosed with Asperger’s until he had completed high school, it was interesting for me to see the lives of these children and their families. I identified with many situations and behaviors that were presented – sometimes cringing in recollection of instances that had happened in my own life.
A bit of background: One of my favorite characters in the movie reminds me of Jeff on a good day. Wyatt looks normal, he speaks well, but it’s just the hint of something different that alludes to his disability. Jeff, most likely like Wyatt, is considered to be high-functioning. He went to a mainstream elementary, middle and high school. He only received special attention when it was absolutely required. At the time, he was being medicated as if he had ADD or ADHD. Asperger’s wasn’t a prevalent diagnosis. That being said, Jeff was in class with “regular” students, he didn’t have many friends since he was different. He did participate in sports, which helped a bit, and the friends that he did have were supportive and loyal.
I bring this up because Wyatt’s story addresses the subject of bullying, one that has recently become a serious issue in our society and one that has affected my family on more than one occasion. Since Jeff was mainstreamed, but obviously different from the other students, he was frequently the target of bullying. The most vivid of these occasions was when Jeff got suspended from high school because he yelled something that is generally deemed a turn of phrase to his bully in the lunchroom. Ugh.
After seeing the struggles these families have come to accept as a part of their reality, you root for this musical to succeed. You see the rehearsals and hope that Elaine can pull off this grand plan (or at least get the children to all focus on their part for a mere 2 minutes.) I don’t want to spoil the ending, so you’ll just have to watch and find out if she pulls it off.
One last thing that I enjoyed about the movie was that it provided follow-up information on the characters. I hate getting engrossed in a story only to be left hanging to dry wondering if some of the issues presented were resolved. Thankfully, that didn’t happen here.
I obviously found this movie interesting, but I know it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I recommend it for those going into any sort of teaching position, those who work with disabled children and those who like stories of underdogs.
Thanks for listening!